When Jacob Rees-Mogg delivers one of his pensées, I often think of Lewis Carroll’s ditty: “He only does it to annoy/because he knows it will tease.” But the Daily Telegraph’s report on the Cabinet Secretary’s summer reading list has made me think Be finished The dissolution of the monasteries by James G Clark, he was about to begin The Price of Timea history of interest rates by Edward Chancellor.
Lest this seem like an indigestible literary diet, a side order from PG Wodehouse was mentioned, but I needed no further convincing that, at least on the literary front, we are in complete agreement.
The idea that summertime reading should come with a foil-embossed jacket and feature extreme violence, romantic glitches—or both—gives me a headache on the bookshelf. When the demands of everyday life make reading take a back seat to work and family, what better way to spend a summer vacation than delving deep into a damn thick, square book that’s patiently waiting for your attention.
So I plan to spend my holidays grappling with Walter Benjamin’s frame epic, The arcade project. But if Rees-Mogg’s yen for rambling monasteries or my crush on Benjamin’s labyrinthine musings make you hiss “pretentious”! When you reach for your reacher or pick up your picoult, Klerb will have room for all of us.
Klerb is an app currently in development that proposes to bring people together based on the books they love. Although it’s already dubbed “Tinder for bookworms,” it’s not primarily a dating app, but aims to bring together people from the same area with similar literary interests.
What develops from this can be anything from a book club to a friendship to a romance. But if you share the revd. Sydney Smith’s view that there is no such charming furniture as books, the contents of a bookshelf is a far better indicator of a future soulmate than a GSOH and a fondness for Labradoodles.
There is an unmistakable spark of recognition when you discover that someone, hitherto a stranger, loves the same books as you; that you have been shaped by the same stories and your mental landscapes are populated with the same characters – that in fact you are not strangers at all.
Granted, there are occasional pitfalls in sharing passion for a particular author: People can be fiercely possessive of certain titles: Dodie Smith readers I conquer the castleElizabeth Goudges The little white horse or TH Whites Mistress Masham’s rest are generally convinced that these books belong to them alone and are disinclined to recognize the claims of others.
Even then, some grit in the book oyster can be a useful stimulant. Years ago, a freeze almost destroyed my new relationship when I discovered my partner’s passion for fantasy fiction – a genre I thought I loathed – and he proved immune to the quiet brilliance of Penelope Fitzgerald. Finally we settled on a literary cross-fertilization: his Robin Hobbs for my Elena Ferrante – and here we are still.
In the end, what counts is not so much what you have read, but the curiosity and open-mindedness inherent in the practice of reading. As filmmaker John Waters wisely observed in his collection of essays, role models“Don’t sleep with people who don’t read.”